Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The mega interview journey, part 6: everyone else

The last three people I talked to were Chris, Shawn, and Mitch. Because I had formed many conclusions by this point and in order to avoid overkill, I'm going to cover all three of them together. The quality of these interviews was not lower because of the subjects, it was because of the interviewer. I'm stressing that because I don't want anyone getting the idea that the first four subjects were "better" in anyway.

Chris Dahlen and I talked for an hour; our conversation was clearly the most comfortable one of all, even more comfortable than the one I had with Michael, who sounds like a Rogerian therapist. I misunderstood him from the beginning. First, he's in New Hampshire, and second, he doesn't seem to really consider himself a "game writer"; he'd likely more say he's a publications writer and that gaming is just one of his topics. At this point, I'd formed some conclusions from my previous interviews, and they probably shined through in my questioning. I don't think I lead him, though; it was more like I got so comfortable he could tell what I was thinking when asking the questions, and we then descended into a friendly and polite bitchfest. It was fun to complain with him.

Shawn Elliott was someone I was lucky to interview. I didn't even think to talk to him except that N'Gai suggested he would be interested. I had to message him by making a 1Up account and giving him my email address. Given his experience, I think he pretty much knows how things are right now and how they'll be in the future, but considering my naivety, my preformed conclusions, and the questions I asked him, the interview was very short. If there is one interview I could do over again, it would be the one with him. Recently on Neogaf he commented in a Braid thread that this really is the "lost generation."

Mitch has no email posted anywhere either--I had to leave a comment on an old post on Insult Swordfighting to get a hold of him. He was the last I interviewed, and his interview was also short; he was the last one I talked to, and after two interviews where I heard unique perspectives and voices but not many unique thoughts (I was coming to the common realizations now), I was very burnt out. Truth be told, after the first four I was burnt out and I just got worse as it went along.

They had the following in common:

--They were all generally disappointed with most games coverage.
--They all liked literature and/or came from "literary backgrounds" and commented on it when I asked about games criticism. Basically, when they think "criticism" they think of it the way that it's done for books. A point: games have a lot in common with books, too, not just movies.
--Under this definition, yeah, some of it has been done, but not very much.
--All had a fatalistic approach: things will be the way they will be; that's just the nature of publications and the gaming world and the world of gaming publications. Chris was stumped. Mitch pointed out: "The more games are accepted by the mainstream, the more games writing can change. The New York Times, the Phoenix, and other mainstream publications aren't relying on video game advertising dollars--that's why they read differently." Shawn perhaps made the most qualified and specified declarations about what to actually do. "Many games writers today are chosen by their love of games and not their love of writing. Their needs to more attention paid to writing skill and a desire to write well about games." Also: "First we need to establish the possibilities; after that, we need to let people take the time to appreciate it; if enough people do, they will demand it." Ooh, a mantra.
--A label of a gaming community wasn't needed or necessary, not as far as this writing is concerned.
--All commented that this change in maturity in our writing was inevitable as the maturity of the games, games industry, and the people who write about and play games.
--All lamented that there wasn't much space, and all made a few comments about the actual writing itself and what makes the good good and the bad bad. We've already driven that nail through the wall.
--Chris has written for a variety of outlets and a variety of topics, so I asked about game writing in the broad public space. How can we get more of it in there? He actually said, "1-2 years ago I'd have said we simply need more outlets. Now I'd say there are some outlets that try to publish more thoughtful content. Now we need more outlets, but we need more writers than outlets."

The sad thing is I still need to write a summary and conclusion of it all, and I'm wondering how much space or seriousness I should give it. I'm debating whether to put it on GSW considering that it seems like for some people it's been over analyzed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interview me again anytime, Mike! Also, my comment was "The Lost generation" -- as in the era of TV's Lost and its more crackpot fans.

8:24 PM  
Blogger Etelmik said...

I like that quote more now. That show is so terrible.

9:29 PM  

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